Problem: Silverlight is new; hardly anyone knows about it, so hardly anyone will use it (why bother when they already have Flash?)
Solution: Provide users with exclusive access to over 3000 hours of live and on-demand video content via Silverlight streaming. And not just any old content either, we are talking the Olympic Games here. Microsoft have secured a deal to provide the online coverage of the Beijing Olympics in August this year and all that coverage will use Silverlight, requiring everyone who wants to watch the stuff to install the Silverlight (version 2 apparently) plugin.
This is a clever move by Microsoft, and a brilliant news for RIA developers concerned at the lack of market penetration of Silverlight. After the games, that penetration rate should have jumped from near 0% to a very significant percentage of the world’s computers.
More details on Somasegar’s blog
It appears that it has finally dawned on Microsoft that adding major new features to Silverlight (.NET support, “proper” controls that support layout management , sockets, data-binding, templates and networking and support for cross-domain networking) and then just issuing it as a minor release (1.1) wasn’t such a clever idea after all. So look out for a beta of Silverlight 2.0 early in 2008.
Read more about it on Somasegar’s blog
Microsoft is a changing beast and those changes look, on the whole, to be for the best. They are of course still up to their usual tricks, such as their attempts to rig the vote in Sweden for example on their OOXML documentation standard, for which they are seeking ISO approval. However they appear to have realised recently that working with, rather than against, the open source community sometimes makes business sense. A case in point is Silverlight.
Microsoft claim that Silverlight will be cross platform. The problem until recently is that they were only supporting a some browsers on the Windows and OS X operating systems. That of course leaves two gaping holes: other Windows and OS X browsers and Linux (there is a third gaping hole: WinCE, but presumably Microsoft will tackle that at some point). Not so long ago, one might expect Microsoft to go into denial over Linux and to claim that IE on Windows was cross-platform enough for 99% of the people, so tough luck to the other 1%. They couldn’t do that this time around though as they are trying to take on Flash, which is pretty much truly cross-platform already. So perhaps it is not so much of a surprise that they intend to make Silverlight available on Linux.
What is surprising is the chosen method. Rather than port Silverlight to a binary release for Linux on x86 machines only, they have taken the genuine open source route: they are backing Moonlight! Moonlight is part of the Mono project, which is attempting to create an open source, multi-operating system version of .NET.
Can Silverlight really be a Flash killer? That I do not know, but with the news that Microsoft are going to assist – via Novell – the development of the Silverlight .NET environment for Linux, Silverlight starts to look a very interesting product. And let’s face it, Adobe aren’t exactly a small lilly-white company about to be threatened by a giant (anyone remember the Dmitry Sklyarov saga?) So I at least will not shed any tears if Silverlight does kill off Flash. I predict a more likely outcome though (at least for the short term) is that competition will spur both projects on giving us both a better Flash and a better Silverlight product over coming years. Now that can’t be bad, so well done Microsoft.
Read the official story here
I came across what, at first glance at least, seems like a really useful product today: GOA WinForms
. The idea behind it is simple, but really clever. Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) are applications that are supposed to work well both via a web page and when run directly from the desktop. They suffer from the problem that web applications rarely look, feel or work anything like “real” computer applications as they implement buttons, menus etc differently to operating system user-interface paradigms. The obvious solution is to implement a set of widgets in Flash, Silverlight, AIR etc that look and feel like those on the chosen operating system. This is no simple task though, and even if done well, one is still faced with potentially writing a “real” application and a RIA that do similar things, but that have wholly different widget APIs.
GOA WindForms addresses this problem in a novel way. The developer uses Visual Studio to create a .NET WinForm. That developer then uses GOA WindForms to turn the WinForm into Flash or Silverlight. Thus the developer can create an XP-style interface in their RIA with minimum effort.
I’d previously expressed concern that the Pro version was in alpha with no price attached, just a vague “The price of the Professional Edition will be close to the prices of the controls libraries that you can find on the market today.” I pleased to report that Jean-Gabriel has now published the prices on his blog. So now you can use the alpha to see if it is a suitable solution without worrying about nasty surprises further down the line.